Negligence in construction

The following Construction practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Negligence in construction
  • The elements of a claim in negligence
  • Personal injury/damage to other property
  • Reasonable opportunity for inspection
  • Complex structure theory
  • Pure economic loss
  • Assumption of responsibility
  • Neighbouring land/highways
  • Co-existing duties
  • Contractual liability
  • More...

Negligence in construction

While tort claims are not as common in construction projects as breach of contract claims, they do still arise and it is not uncommon for a claimant to advance a claim in tort alongside, or in the alternative to, a claim in contract.

The most relevant tort in construction is the tort of negligence—this includes ‘professional negligence’ where the negligent act has been committed by a person or company holding itself out to be a professional.

This Practice Note considers some of the key issues concerning negligence in the context of construction projects, including liability for personal injury and damage to other property (including the complex structure theory), liability for pure economic loss (including whether there has been an assumption of responsibility), co-existing duties in contract and tort, liability for independent contractors, contributory negligence and the ability to limit or exclude liability for negligence.

For an overview of the various torts, see: Tort, negligence and nuisance claims—overview.

The elements of a claim in negligence

Four elements must be established for a claim in negligence to succeed:

  1. a duty of care

  2. a breach of that duty of care—in a professional negligence claim this means a failure to exercise ‘reasonable care and skill’ (see Practice Note: Standard of care in professional negligence claims)

  3. damage caused by the breach

  4. foreseeability of that damage

For more information about establishing a claim in

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